I decided to read this book after it was highly recommended by a Robert Silverberg, who wrote a column on Jack Vance in the Feb 2007 issue of Asimov’s.

Silverberg wrote of Vance’s “use of colour, courtly dialogue, sardonic wit” and gave this excerpt:

“I respond to three questions,” stated the augur. “For twenty terces I phrase the answer in clear and actionable language; for ten I use the language of cant, which occasionally admits of ambiguity; for five, I speak to a parable which you must interpret as you will; and for one terce, I babble in an unknown tongue.”

And I was hooked.

coverNLB Call No.: VAN

The book was available at the library so I borrowed it.

The edition I read comprised of four stories – The Dying Earth, Eyes of the Overworlds, Cudgel’s Saga, and Rhialto the Marvellous.

Written in 1950, the writing style certainly is very different from current writing standards but nonetheless interesting.

It’s definitely a Fantasy genre, although the earth which Jack Vance writes is one where technology has reached such an advanced stage that technology and magic is indistinguishable.

Civilisation has regressed to a stage where technology is only remembered and invoked as spells and incantations, though there are occasional glimpses of technology.

In the foreword to Rhialto the Marvellous, a paragrah explains that:

“A spell in essence corresponds to a code, or a set of instructions, inserted into a sensorium of an entity which is able and unwilling to alter the environment in accordance with the message conveyed by the spell.”

Ok, makes sense to me, lol.

Silverberg (a successful SF author) was spot on about the descriptive powers of Vance.

Beautiful lines like… “sunset across the northern wastelands was a mournful process, languid as the bleeding of a dead animal” and “timp, fluke-mites, gangue and pust vecame his hated enemies; impactions of the clote were a major annoyance, requiring the sub-surface use of reamer, drench-bar and hose, in a position which, when the impaction was eased, became subject to the full force of the effluxion“.

Vance’s Dying Earth contains fantastic creatures like Worms (whose riders are called Wormingers), Deodands (feral human/ leopard hybrids), Saponids, Twk-men (tiny humaniods who rides on dragonflies and trades information — librarians!), and various demons of colourful and vivid descriptions of floral and

Oh, you just have to love the names of characters and places that Vance comes up with.

Like Lehuster the T’sais (twin sister of a character named T’sain), Benefer, Vermoulian the Dream-walker, Pendelume, Mazirian the Magician, Iucounu, the Cutz Wars of the Eighteenth Aeon, the Land of the Falling Wall, Chun the Unavoidable, the Spell of Forlorn Encystment.

What I didn’t really like in this book were the Cudgel stories. They were fine at the beginning but I felt they became too long drawn later.

Anyway the book is a Classic, in my opinion.

Worth a read just to get a different feel and perspectives to plots and writing styles.

It’s a thick book.

I brought this along to a Double-Bass recital and PY mistook it for a dictionary!